Austin Counselor & Therapist
Carolyn C. Martin, MS, LPC, LMFT answers frequently asked questions about counseling and therapy
- What is therapy?
- The main purpose of therapy is to facilitate your problem solving and personal growth. This occurs when you begin to acknowledge your freedom
to change, accept the responsibility to make those changes, and then take action.
Therapy is a process by which you can make positive life changes. The word “process,” according to Webster's Dictionary, is a natural phenomenon marked by gradual changes that lead toward a particular result, e.g., the process of growth. The implied message in this definition is that major changes take time. These major changes are an accumulation of smaller changes directed at a desired result. Don't expect quick fixes.
In therapy you will learn to identify, label and process your feelings and thoughts. You will also evaluate your behavior. Most unwanted feelings, thoughts, and behaviors can be changed with work. Therapy is work. It is not something your therapist will do to you, but instead something you will be guided through. It is important to remember that in therapy you will be encouraged to make well thought-out choices. If you have difficulty making choices, your therapist will teach you decision making skills. It is also important to remember that if you choose not to work in and/or out of the therapy setting, you will probably not achieve your desired results. The days and hours between sessions will be the time when most of your work will be done. In the first stage of therapy, time is spent discussing concerns and getting to know each other. It is important to develop a trusting relationship in the early stages of therapy. A trusting relationship is necessary to the therapeutic process. Often people enter therapy because they have difficulty forming positive relationships with others. This is an indication this person has difficulty trusting others. Your therapist will be very patient and encouraging if this is a problem for you. Much attention and time will be devoted to your needs in this area.
As trust is developed, it becomes easier to discuss feelings and needs. The result is a better understanding of yourself and the development of plans for making changes. Realistic goals can be set and choices can be explored. Active involvement by you, both during the therapy session and outside therapy, is required in order for changes and growth to occur. You will usually be given suggestions at the end of your therapy session to be carried out before your next session. Many times these suggestions will be generated from your own ideas for “homework” assignments since you are more aware of your time restraints, abilities, interests, etc. Again, it is your choice to work outside the therapy setting, but try to remember you have come to a professional who is knowledgeable about the necessary steps in the process of change. It is very important in goal setting to evaluate your progress and modify goals at appropriate times. Therefore, part of your session will be devoted to discussing the previous week's assignment.
Therapy has three phases. A beginning that begins with the first session, a middle that can begin and end at any time, and an end that begins two to three sessions before the final session. When you are ready to bring a close to the therapy process, it is your responsibility to make this known to your therapist. Closure on therapy occurs for various reasons including the accomplishment of goals, moving out of town, need to focus attention elsewhere, or dissatisfaction with your therapist. Whatever the reason for ending therapy, schedule a final session and discuss your leaving with your therapist. Not showing up for your session or just “disappearing” is a very unhealthy way to deal with good-byes and conflicts.
- What is confidentiality?
- The therapists' code of ethics and the state laws regulating therapy consider the personal information you discuss to be confidential. This
means that no information about your therapy can be released without your written permission. Also, your therapist recognizes that a trusting
relationship between a therapist and client can not be formed if information is not kept confidential. However, in a small number of situations,
therapists are legally required to break confidentiality:
- If you reveal information that indicates a clear and immediate danger of injury to yourself or others, the therapist is required by law to contact the appropriate authorities and/or family members.
- EVERYONE, including you, is required by law to report knowledge and/or suspicion of abuse and/or neglect to an incompetent person, disabled person, or a child.
- When a court-ordered subpoena requires the release of records kept at the therapist's office and/or requires the therapist to give testimony at a court hearing.
- What are my therapist's responsibilities?
- In the initial session, your therapist will ask detailed questions about your history, your life situation, and your present concerns or
problems. After the therapist has identified the specific problem areas, the two of you will agree upon a treatment plan including goals,
tentative methods to accomplish these goals, and approximate length of time to achieve the goals.
Occasionally, clients have extreme difficulty functioning in their everyday life. If your therapist feels medication might help you function better and it will facilitate the therapeutic process, you will be referred to a psychiatrist for a medication consultation. Your therapist and the psychiatrist will work very diligently to insure that you are not using unnecessary medication, will not become dependent on medication and will not have your therapeutic process retarded. Taking medication is a client's choice, and you will be provided adequate information for making a wise decision.
If, at any time, you or your therapist determines that your therapist can no longer be of help to you, another appropriate professional will be suggested. Mariposa Psychotherapy Associates is committed to giving you the very best available therapy.
- What are my responsibilities as a client?
- Personal commitment to therapy is crucial for success. If you must cancel your appointment or come late for an appointment you are expected
to notify your therapist. Payment is due at the beginning of each session. Valid methods of payment are: credit card, cash or check. Payments
will be reimbursed or credited if the cancellation of the next session is at least 24 hours in advance or in the case of emergencies. Please
inform your therapist of any insurance changes. Therapists often work late hours, attend out of town conferences, and have hospital emergencies
that make them difficult to reach. Twenty-four hours notice usually will insure your therapist gets your message. Also, this gives others and
an opportunity to schedule their session in your time period.
Please be on time for your sessions. They will last only 50 minutes. Think ahead about what you would like to work on, pace yourself, and plan to stop on time. Obviously, there are times when it is impossible to shut down your feelings or finish thoughts precisely after 50 minutes.
Equally important are the responsibilities you have to be an active, open and honest client with your therapist. Your most important responsibility, however, is to work toward the goals you and the therapist have agreed upon. Seeing a therapist for 50 minutes per week will be of little benefit without additional effort outside the therapy office. This work can include thinking about the material covered in your sessions, making yourself aware of the behaviors you want to change, or working on specific assignments made by your counselor. Examples of a specific assignment might be keeping a journal, reading a specific book or article, or practicing a new skill.